|PWC 2004 Zoning Ordinance Update
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Link to Searchable Zoning Ordinance
The Prince William Zoning Ordinance, based on Title 15.2 Chapter 22 of the Virginia Code, contains the land use regulations for all land in the County. The Zoning Ordinance defines legal rights and constraints for land use.
The Zoning Ordinance is one of the primary tools to implement the goals included in the Comprehensive Plan. No update to the Zoning Ordinance followed the adoption of the 1998 Comprehensive Plan, which was widely supported by citizens. As a result, many of the goals included in the Comprehensive Plan could not be implemented. The 1998 Comprehensive Plan was updated in 2003. The County is now revising the Zoning Ordinance to reflect the goals and vision established by the Comprehensive Plan.
A quick review of the Comprehensive Plan adds perspective to the proposed Zoning Ordinance changes. The County has posted an Overview and Quick Reference Guide for the Comprehensive Plan, which covers the main ideas.
Prince William's Zoning Ordinance Review Committee (ZORC) began the review process. Many of their comments are included in the Comments section of the Zoning Ordinance Update. Some members also submitted a Minority Report, outlining ideas important to the authors.
One difficulty in reviewing the Zoning Ordinance is that references to individual topics are scattered through more than one section.The County has posted an overview of proposed changes online. Links to the appropriate sections of the Zoning Ordinance update are included on this webpage. Some of the changes getting attention include:
- How closely together houses can be built? A fire safety issue proposed for resolution by establishing side yard setbacks, Section 300.53.
- Regulations for the PMR (Planned Mixed Residential) category, Part 306. Increasing numbers of development proposals are requesting the flexible PMR category, including town center applications.
- What construction activities will be allowed in the Floodplain? Section 501.
- Protection for steep slopes, Section 250.52, was included but now an exception threatens to neutralize the text intended to protect these critical structures.
- Large retail uses (Big box) are under discussion again, including changes that lower requirement to apply to uses that are more than 40,000 square feet (instead of 80,000 square feet) and deletion of the term 'free standing.' Section 401.
- Definitions, Section 100, are always of interest in a County that includes the Cannon's Baseball Stadium in its open space category and counts power line easements as 'undisturbed space.'
Deadly Fairfax, Virginia Fire Shows Growing Peril; Distance Between Houses Could Lead to Large Fires
"People are interested in having less yard and living in a more compact environment," said Sherman Patrick, Prince William's zoning administrator. "It's a desire to provide an alternative for townhouses and a new urban design that people like..."
Eric Weiss, Washington Post; July 19 2004
Anatomy of a Bottleneck: The U.S. Route 29/I-66 Interchange at Gainesville, Virginia
In West Prince William, as is the case elsewhere, over-planning and over-zoning is a reflection of the unfounded hope that if a great deal of land is officially designated for "tax base" land uses (office, retail, repair service, warehousing, fabrication and manufacturing, etc.), then someone will build these uses. "Zone it and they will come" is the basis for this fantasy.
E. M. Risse, Synergy Planning
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